As I poked around the artist's studios on the 3rd floor in Pioneer Works with some friends visiting from out of town, I came across a table with empty ring boxes, curious, I got closer to take a look. "Why are all of these ring boxes lying around?" I wondered. As I looked around the studio, I noticed a work in progress, and I realized that this artist was creating incredible, highly detailed dioramas within the ring boxes.
Who's studio was this? Who was making these intricate pieces of art? As I looked around some more I found a description on the wall that told me that Curtis "Talwst" Santiago is a Canadian-Trinidadian artist working in mixed media and performance practices.
Talwst is currently engaged in his ongoing and prolific infinity series of miniature dioramas in reclaimed ring boxes. An exploration across cultures and time periods, these works aim to draw attention to absent or misinterpreted narratives, suggest the non-linear complexities of history, and explore relationships between cultures. He has produced a number of sub series in this format that focus on themes such as inserting marginalized narratives into art history and drawing parallels between disparate cultural histories.
According to Talwst, he got the idea to create these miniature theaters when a street vendor in Paris handed him an old ring box one day and said: “I want to see you do something with this.”
Talwst took that antique ring box and transformed it into a seaside scene featuring a woman in a black, vintage swimsuit. From that experience, the idea was born: “I want the viewer to open the box and feel they have been transported to another world,” he says.
Viewing Talwst's works takes you on a journey into a myriad of differently themed worlds, ranging from a revisionist historical scene, to science fiction TV show, to a global warming awareness scene, to an ode to famous painters. Every ring box presents a unique, inspiring and painstakingly detailed story.
As Talwst shares: “The work’s small scale allows me the opportunity for a very particular kind of meditation. The overarching theme is related to time and space; to my sense of the vastness and the fragility of the world which I inhabit; and my fleeting memories of this world.”
"In this work I wanted to play the role of court jester, like Banksy or Maurizio Cattelan, in a surrealist comedy piece poking fun at Dutch landscapes." - Talwst
"This is inspired by a roommate who was obsessed with conspiracy theorist David Icke, who believes that the Rockefellers and Rothschilds are extraterrestrials. I don’t subscribe to Icke’s theories." -Talwst
"This is an ode to Edouard Manet, one of my favourite painters. It’s a take on his 1864 painting La Muerte del Torero." -Talwst
If you want to see more of Talwst's work, check out his website here: http://talwst.com/
If you're in NYC right now, he's still in residence at Pioneer Works, check him out there while you can.
Written by Rajmani Sinclair
June 30, 2016